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Hood seeks better absentee ballot tracking

By Associated Press
Published January 15, 2005

TALLAHASSEE - Secretary of State Glenda Hood told legislators Thursday the state should develop a better method for tracking absentee ballots, after thousands were remailed in Broward and Palm Beach counties days before the November election.

Appearing before a joint House-Senate elections committee, Hood recommended other adjustments to election laws, including changes in voter registration deadlines and restrictions on how close campaign volunteers can get to people waiting to vote early.

In Broward County, complaints surfaced over undelivered absentee ballots, and more than 9,000 were remailed the Saturday before Election Day. Palm Beach County mailed more than 5,500 ballots the same weekend.

Some lawmakers from other counties said voters who did not get their absentee ballots in time also called their offices.

"We need to work with the Postal Service to make sure we can track them," Hood said. She didn't provide specifics.

Aside from the late absentee ballots and long lines for early voting, officials have described the election as otherwise smooth. Senate Elections Chairman Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, said he doesn't envision any major changes this year. Although some have advocated requiring touch screen voting machines to provide paper printouts to assure voters their ballots were counted, Posey called it a moot point.

"If we could find any evidence of fraud, we would do something," he said.

An idea floated by election supervisors was an election voting period lasting at least 11 days, with fewer polling places. Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Kurt Browning spoke for it, saying supervisors would need fewer poll workers and elections would cost less.

But Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, a member of the House Ethics and Elections Committee, said she wants to eliminate early voting entirely.

Bogdanoff said early voting makes it even harder for nonincumbent candidates to get elected, because they have to spend more money during an extended voting period.

She supported the idea of making Election Day a holiday and using schools as voting sites. Rep. Bob Allen, R-Merritt Island, has filed a bill to make all school districts have a teacher planning day on election days.

Supervisors also want the complete repeal of Florida's runoff, or second primary, which is held when no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote in the first election.

Lawmakers suspended the runoff for 2002 and 2004 elections, but it will come back in 2006 if they fail to act.

[Last modified January 15, 2005, 01:00:08]

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